Saturday, April 21, 2007

Google Office: Getting closer and closer

Over the past few months, I have written several blog posts about Google and Google Apps for your Domain. After attending the Google Teacher's Academy in November, I have been working with different groups to use these tools with their classes. The past week has seen several events come to pass that will finish the "Google Office Suite" and the next few months will see the integration of all of these tools into a single sign-on service giving most students and teachers access to a very powerful set of tools they can use to create, manage and share their data with other students and teachers. This facilitates collaboration in real-time with anyone, but most particularly with teachers and students.

So, what has happened this week...

1) Google announced that they will have a presentation tool (like PowerPoint) that will become part of the Google Docs and Spreadsheets package. Eric Schmidt, the Google CEO demonstrated at the beginning of his talk at the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco this week. There were other interesting tidbits from the 35 minute interview, including what he sees as Google's direction and which new 'spaces' Google will move into. (See Video Below)

2) Google announced that they are adding charts to the Spreadsheets package. This was one of the big missing pieces to the puzzle for most business users and will facilitate students learning how to use data more effectively in supporting their point of view. The students in our Global Communications course have just finished a project where they had to survey others, collect and interpret the data they collected. They could write the paper using Google Docs, but they had to use Excel to enter their data and create charts. This can all be done in one system now and have the files linked together. (e.g.: embedding a chart created from a Google Spreadsheet directly into a Google Document.) Google is spending time integrating all of the tools together, which I think is crucial to making them more popular. A new video shows Google's efforts in this area. Rajen Sheth, the Project Manager for the Google Apps, reviews the major features and how the tools integrate with each other.

3) Google announced the acquistion of Marratech, a company that produces an online project management system. The management system has embedded chat and video conferencing features built in. There is even an online 'whiteboard' system for online collaboration. Look for this to be part of the Google Apps for your Domain soon!

So, the trick that Google needs to pull of now is getting everything to work together. I believe that one of Google's chief missions is to pull everything together in this way an provide a package for businesses and schools. But more than a one size fits all approach, the goal should be create a system where businesses and schools can tailor the tools their employees and/or students have access to. Rajen Sheth, outlines part of this in the video above, but I also think they need to create additional API's for the tools that are not currently part of Google Apps and allow groups or individual users to place them on their 'Personalized Home Page' or "Google Apps Home Page." Among the tools I feel should be part of the Google Apps are Blogger and the revised version of JotSpot wiki tool. With the inclusion of these two tools, the Google Apps will create a powerful, full service online office suite / publishing platform.

What does this mean for education? It means that in the near future, all students will have access to a set of very powerful tools for productivity, publishing and collaboration. Each student will have access to these tools from any Internet accessible computer, regardless of platform . (Windows, Apple, Linux) It is another way in which the 'Altruistic Excuse' becomes moot!

Get ready... because things are going to get a little crazy! You don't want to be left behind, or do you?


Rick said...

I sure don't! This is great news. I have slowly but surely been using Google Docs more than my desktop-based home office suite.

Bob F said...

Great announcements - especially the online spreadsheet application. I figured it was on its way and I am sure it will be powerful like Docs and Spreadsheet. Have you ever seen ZOHO? Check it out if you have a chance